Why Did I Suddenly Lose Strength In My Bench Press?
Updated February 14th 2020; March 20th 2019
How come I am suddenly losing strength in my bench press? Is something wrong with me?
Unless you fell ill or stopped going to the gym, you did not “lose” strength for your bench press. What is probably happening is that you have reached the training threshold at which your body can recover from and you are unable to make any more progress at your current training methodology. However, if you are consistently losing strength in the gym and you are doing everything right outside of the gym, consult with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Why is my bench press getting weaker?
We can go on and on about why you are losing strength in your bench press.
But if this is a chronic issue or a persistent issue that is not going away, it is in your best interest to seek a medical professional.
As resilient as our bodies may be, they sometimes are warning us accurately about any malfunctioning bodily functions.
Let us dive into some reasonings;
let us first rule out any external factors, which as getting sick or stop going to the gym.
If you are getting sick, your body will not allocate all its resources into helping you become a magnificent beast.
Hopefully, you are not getting sick because you are doing heavy squats and deadlifts.
Conversely, if you stop going to the gym, your strength will naturally decrease since your everyday situation does not demand that your body carry that much muscle and strength.
A few things can happen if you suddenly feel that your loss strength in your bench press: a fluke, you are have not fully recovered from your previous workout or you are mentally psyching yourself out.
A random bad day
These days can happen.
It has happened to me.
It has happened to lifters in the past.
It can happen to you.
While we always do our best to limit these days from occurring, they do sneak up on us.
So, what can we do about it? How do we know it is happening? Here is one scenario:
You are suddenly unable to do a similar working set this week but you finished it last week
Let us say you are doing a 200lbs bench press for 3 sets of 5 reps.
You were able to do that last week and you felt pretty confident about that workout.
In fact, you could have probably done 3 sets of 8 reps and it would have still been moderately challenging.
Flash forward to next week.
You are struggling with 200lbs for even one set of 3 reps.
What should you do?
Does this mean you have gotten weaker?
Do not sweat it.
Chalk it off as a bad day and do not beat yourself up for it.
Instead, try to rationalize what you CAN do for that day.
So, if 200 lbs was your working set, why to do 185lbs for the same rep scheme?
Or stick with 200 lbs but hit several sets of doubles so that you can accumulate some training volume?
Or switch up your bench press variations by doing paused bench press instead of touch and go.
There are endless possibilities available for you.
Before you know it, in the very NEXT workout, you are just as strong.
And are able to pick up where you left off.
This is a good thing since you are able to navigate rough times and adjust your workout accordingly.
You have not recovered from your previous workout
Are you feeling tight?
Addressing mobility is a fresh topic that we have addressed in the attached article.
But what we are talking about is you being under-recovered.
As popular as overtraining may sound, it is incredibly difficult to overtrain.
In a majority of claims to be overtrained, a minuscule percentage is probably true due to how abundant food, knowledge, and resources are available in the world.
You are just under-recovered.
And what do I mean by lack of recovery?
It can mean several things:
You are not sleeping enough and eating enough
Strength and muscle building works best when you pair high-quality sleep with a caloric surplus diet.
With this powerful combination, lifters are able to tap into a majority of their potential, just from eating and sleeping.
The rest is working hard in the gym.
But be honest, you have a choice to go to bed at around 9 PM or 10 PM but you chose to stay up late and waste time with your electronics
. You are unaware that you are addicted to electronic stimulus and just stay up longer than you should.
In addition to this poor behavior, eating habits are not properly controlled with the rise of fast food chains and complex work schedules.
You reached the limits of your recovery
You have been sleeping 10 hours a day.
You are eating a caloric surplus.
But you are still stalling at the bench press.
In fact, you feel that you have gotten weaker.
Do not be alarmed.
There is an explanation for this too as many other lifters have experienced similar sensations as you.
Simply put, you are unable to recover from your current bench press workout.
For example, if you are doing 225lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps and are unable to do it the following three weeks, your body is trying to tell you that you need more time to recover from 225lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps.
There is nothing wrong with that as your body is trying to quickly recover as fast as possible to protect itself.
So, what can you do?
You need to adapt.
Taking a deload is one popular option that many lifters opt for as it temporarily gives the lifter a break while their body furiously rebuilds itself.
Some lifters may find that a deload is the perfect solution for their problem as they are able to continue to make progress for an extended period of time after the deload.
For other lifters, a deload did not do anything.
In that case, you should listen to your body and just take a reset.
Drop the intensity and restart your progressive overload again.
You are still getting in a decent amount of volume, which will always increase over time as you continue training.
In fact, restarting my progressive overload is how I got to achieve a 225lbs bench press at 170lbs bodyweight.
You are too advanced for your programming
Do you know that there are bench press standards for your bodyweight?
In fact, there is data gathered from thousands of lifters on what a beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite lifter should bench press at their body weight.
For example, a 200lbs male would be at intermediate lifter if he can bench press 245lbs for his 1 rep max.
If you have been doing your program for over a year and it has suddenly stopped working, it may be time to reflect on whether or not the programming is an issue.
For a majority of lifters, they will often stop a program before 6 months is over.
So, a lot of gym-goers will need to practice discipline instead of blaming something on their sudden loss in strength for the bench press.
But for those lifters who have been consistent with their program for at least one year and have a sudden loss in strength for the bench press, you need to ask yourself if the programming is still appropriate for you.
These programs will add more weight after every successful workout.
This means you are able to recover after each workout and still progress in weight.
Some intermediate lifters and a majority of advanced and elite lifters are forced to structure their programming differently.
Instead of making progress every workout, it is deliberately planned to increase weight every week or every month, depending on the lifter.
This ensures that the lifter has an optimal trajectory to hit a future personal record by always training with enough stimulus for the body to continue to get stronger.
You are psyching yourself out
When you think too much about your progress, you sometimes get too much in your head.
You expect yourself to be at 100% at all times and you want to hit all your numbers (even more if possible) for every single workout.
When you come back into reality, you will find that life is not all sunshine and flowers.
There are struggles and challenges. You are forced to make tough decisions.
You will even fail a few workouts.
Does that mean all your hard work training for weeks is ruined? Not necessarily.
One of the most important things to realize is that as important as you want your bench press PR to be, it is not the end of the world if you cannot hit your working sets today.
Just try again next time.
Readjust your plan for the rest of your workout.
The world does not revolve around your missing a few sets and reps.
But your attitude and ability to stay focused is vitally important for your long term gains in the bench press.
You may not understand strength training principles
If you are only chasing your training numbers in the gym day by day, even week by week.
It shows me that you have not fully understood how to strength train properly.
From what I learned in 5/3/1 (my current program), there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Viewing strength gains as just improving each session or each week after years of training...
That is getting old for me.
Yes, if you have not been lifting for years, you should be making progress each session or week.
However, after saying no to gaining excess bodyweight, I have reached the crossroads of strength training for me.
How do I keep getting stronger if my bodyweight stays stagnant?
Well, have a looked at strength training another way?
This is what I mean:
- Can I train through mini-cycles injury free?
- Can I accumulate volume and make sure I hit all my training sets each month for years to come?
- Am I lifting heavy weights?
- Am I practicing good technique?
If you do the things I mentioned above, do you think you are getting stronger or weaker?
Especially if you have been training for years, your strength displayed today will not be the same as your strength displayed tomorrow.
Strength gains are not linear.
So, do not have unrealistic expectations.
Anyone that promises you a 2x bodyweight bench press by not training for a long time is fooling you.
Know that anything worthwhile in your training will not come easy.
You will need to earn it.
So, if you do experience a sudden drop in your bench press strength, do not be alarmed.
Be logical and try to isolate the issue.
If you rely on a coach to tell you what is wrong, you miss out on a lot of self-learning.
Be patient and stay consistent.